2023 was a really boring year for me. I took a six-month long data analytics course between April and October, so I spent most of my year doing weird computer math and feeling disconnected from my actual personality. In January I went to Arizona, but January doesn’t really count as part of the year. January always has more of a “last year” vibe to it.
I loved What Makes You Think You’re The One immediately. Some songs you have to listen to five or six times before they get under your nails, but that one hit straight away. It’s so rowdy, so fresh, like opening up the creaky white front door of your shabby oceanside cottage and being rudely yet invigoratingly smacked in the face by a mean, cold, Novembery breeze.
Eighteen years ago, I didn’t understand how it was a Fleetwood Mac song. Back then, I “hated” Fleetwood Mac. I disliked all the popular singles off Rumours, and Stevie Nicks’ genius didn’t speak to me. In the present tense, I think Stevie is fine, though I will always find her witchy aesthetic off-putting. I live in a world of clean lines and brutal honesty, and the art I love reflects it.
Why is a boy singing it? I wondered. Since when is there a boy in Fleetwood Mac? I looked at the album cover, which was austere and had a dog on it. I guess on this weird Fleetwood Mac album with a dog on it, a boy sometimes sings. I had no idea who that boy was, or that his name was, of all names, Lindsey. Such a hot name for a dude!
But I didn’t care. In that era of my life, all I wanted was a cool song to play to the twelve people that came to my DJ night every Tuesday. I collected 45s, and was enamored by the idea of the physical single: a song as a possession, an artifact, a song that I could hold.
Last year, in 2022, while watching the excellent though terribly named HBO TV show Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty (Honestly, why didn’t they just call it The Lake Show? That name was right there waiting for them), I started loving a second song from Tusk: its title track, Tusk. It played over a montage of the 1979/80 Los Angeles Lakers winning a bunch of games dazzlingly, and was so monstrous and bombastic that I had choice but to Shazam it. It’s so embarrassing to Shazam a song. Everyone is at their personal most vulnerable while Shazaming.
I will probably always associate Tusk with vintage basketball, and with athleticism in general. I love listening to Tusk while going ham on the elliptical machine or stomping exuberantly down a city street. This past July, I was soberly walking down Dundas Street behind an obviously drunk girl. The drunk girl was walking alone and clearly going through it: at one point she stopped to smell a flower in someone’s yard, then turned on a dime and rejected the notion of behaving positively toward a flower and ripped it off its stalk. Then she threw it into oncoming traffic. She jumped into the air and tried to smack a way-high-up tree branch with her fingertips. I thought, So many times, I have been you. I hoped she was listening to Tusk.
Tusk is a perfect balance of exactly 50% creepy and 50% celebratory, which is a very Lindsey-y vibe. When I got into it last summer, I intuitively knew that it was written by the same “boy” as my snarling and beloved What Makes You Think You’re The One, a boy who I was by then secure in knowing was named Lindsey Buckingham.
The next day, I walked across the city from my apartment to my dad’s. I was listening to music on headphones, and after about fifteen minutes of listening to boring whatever, I remembered how excellent The Chain had sounded the day before, and started craving it.
I gave in, and listened to The Chain on repeat for the remainder of my walk. It was a memorable walk. I walked through three neighbourhoods, and in each neighbourhood, I realized, I looked like something completely different. In my own neighbourhood, I looked like what I was: a sort of cool woman in her late thirties on an off-day. In the next neighbourhood, King West, hordes of generationally wealthy young’uns were dressed up to eat fancy bad brunch by ring-light, and I looked like the scrub of the year. To them I’m sure I came off like a depressing fifty-year-old. Finally, I passed St. Lawrence Market and reached my dad’s neighbourhood, populated by unimaginative tourists and fifty-plus condo dwellers, where I sparkled like a fabulous supermodel. Looks mean nothing, I thought. I look like nothing.
Formally, The Chain doesn’t count as a Lindsey song: The Chain is the only Fleetwood Mac song co-authored by all five members of the band. When I listen to it now, I wonder which contributions are Lindsey’s, and if the Lindsey-fifth composes the bulk of what calls out to me. The part of The Chain I love most, and think of often, is of course the lyric, “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again,” which is an endearingly/ irritatingly dramatic thing to say. To me it sounds like a Lindsey lyric, since Lindsey lyrics are often bolstered by an undercurrent of mean-spiritedness. He’s always pettily making some point about how someone else’s bad behaviour is ruining his day, then making a judgment call about it. These are not the most virtuous of vibes, but they’re legitimate vibes we have all experienced, and every real vibe deserves representation.
Mostly I like to think about whether or not If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again is universally true. It’s a grand assertion, which I love, but the dark side of a grand assertion is that they very often mean nothing at all. Very often, they’re just some idiotic thing a drama queen said to get a reaction out of somebody else.
I don’t think “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again” is sometimes true and sometimes isn’t. I think it must either be a universal truth or else complete bullshit. On the one hand, it’s reasonable to think that love is a constant: if you love someone, you love someone, always have and always will. Love, using this logic, will do anything to stay alive. It will float like a vapour outside an airplane window and ooze through tiny crevices like Alex Mack. Severing a love connection is like beheading someone. There is no coming back from it.
Or maybe not! Maybe love is indifferent and we all make way too big a deal out of it. I once knew a man who likened sex to playing tennis: “back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” he said, so blasé, shrugging, like all of it was nothing. Maybe love is like that too.
Maybe love isn’t turbulent so much as it’s athletic, one person vs. another, a competitive and constructed state that Lindsey Buckingham entirely deserves to write a defensive lyric about, abruptly ending the game with a cool finality. He wins.
There are two Lindsey songs on Rumours: Never Going Back Again and Second Hand News. Never Going Back Again is the one I like less of the two, although I do like it. It sounds very fresh and clear, encapsulating a feeling of waking up in the morning, opening your eyes and having an overwhelming feeling of decisiveness about your day. Sorry to harp on the montage thing, but I love a fucking montage, and Never Going Back Again sounds like it should be playing in a Nora Ephron movie montage of the main character cleaning her house, and the cleaning of the house would be a metaphor for the untangling of her soul.
Second Hand News, my favourite Lindsey song on Rumours, is a lyrically sadsack-y but sonically jolly romp through the grass featuring Lindsey at his dorkiest, which works. Normally I prefer for Lindsey to be a cool guy, but since Rumours is so intrinsically corny, it’s relevant that he leans in.
Many times over the course of this tune, Lindsey sings the non-words, “Doot-doodley-doo.” I’m not a person who would ever respond to any “doot-doodley-doo,” in fact my fear of “doot-doodley-doo -energy is what kept me very far away from Rumours for thirty-eight years, but there is something a little different about a Lindsey “doot-doodley-doo”: it’s a powerful, almost hateful, “doot-doodley-doo.” That nasty/nerdy paradox is intrinsic to the Lindsey Buckingham experience; I can’t think of anyone else in the world who could ever imbue a “doot-doodley-doo” with such palpable, genuine violence.
But of course the crown jewel of the Second Hand News lyric is, “Won’t you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff?” When I first heard Lindsey ask this chill and beautiful question, I interpreted it to mean “Will everybody leave me alone for one goddamned second of my life so I can take refuge in the majestic beauty of the natural environment and, like, make art about it?” But after a few more listens, I realized that Lindsey is likelier talking about sex. The preceding lyric— “When times go bad/ And you can't get enough…”— is the tell. And later in the song, there’s a call-back where he sings: “Oh, couldn’t you just let me go down and do my stuff?” and that kind of spells the sex thing out for you.
I like this interpretation too. It’s like, “I know our relationship is in deep trouble at the moment, and I don’t feel great about it, but maybe we could just put it out of our minds for tonight and I’ll put a solid effort into having better-than-usual sex with you, which I feel like you’ll be into.” And I’m sorry, but if you can’t relate to using sex as a band-aid solution to momentarily fix your broken relationship, I don’t think that Lindsey Buckingham and I are the right fit for you.
One last thing I’d like to say during the sex portion of this essay is that I would be very interested in holding a round table discussion centred around the topic, “Who is a better lover: Mick Fleetwood or Lindsey Buckingham?” I bet a lot of people would want to make the point that Mick is a better lover because he’s less hot and therefore has more to prove, but I strongly disagree with these hypothetical Mick-supporters, which is saying a lot, because in almost any other situation I would big time stand up for the person who has the same birthday as me being better at sex. But I just think it’s really obvious that Lindsey Buckingham can fuck.
I’ve finally gotten us to the point where I’m walking home from work in the middle of June, the time from the first sentence in this essay, when I figured the whole thing out.
I was walking home from work, listening to Tusk. Not That Funny comes after That’s All For Everyone, the first of two times on the album when you get two Lindsey songs in a row. There’s a moment in That’s All when Lindsey sings the words I can’t stay, I can’t deceive in a voice so heart-wrenching it makes you want to get a fucking tattoo about it. Every time I hear it, the I can’t stay makes me feel like someone I’m in love with just told me that they love me— it’s a similar style of feeling seen. I went on a meditation retreat last summer, and this thing happened to me where I stopped being able to understand what my personality is, which was uncomfortable but a win overall, since personalities are pretty futile. Since then, the only thing in the world I can think of as being “my personality” is the sound of Lindsey Buckingham singing I can’t stay. I can’t deceive is beautiful too, but I don’t think I’m I can’t deceive yet. I can’t deceive is my aspiration.
The famous thing about Not That Funny is that Lindsey Buckingham sang the entire thing while in a push-up position. I actually don’t know how famous that fact is. I learned it on the Not That Funny Wikipedia entry, my go-to source for all things Lindsey Buckingham. Says the Not That Funny Wikipedia entry, “Retrospectively, Marcello Carlin of Uncut described it as a "disturbing" song on which Buckingham’s near-psychotic guitar and vocal screams approach Pere Ubu territory.” I don’t know anything about Pere Ubu or Pere Ubu territory, but it makes me feel proud of Lindsey Buckingham that this Marcello person called him “disturbing” and “psychotic” in the space of one sentence.
Hearing those two songs in a row, it’s very obvious that they were written by the same guy. Standing in the middle of a short little street I walk down almost every night yet have never bothered to learn the name of, a street that kind of reminds me of England, but doesn’t, I opened up the Wikipedia entry for Tusk and saw that every song I loved was written by Lindsey. I thought, “What a hot name for a dude!”
In the years following my short-lived DJ era, I became a lyrics-centric music-listener, and to truly love a song I needed to love the lyrics. I needed them to express a sentiment that I related to, and I needed them to be written by a person who I believed was similar to myself. I was dependent on music, co-dependent, asked a lot of it. I needed whatever assortment of sounds coming from my headphones to make me feel like I wasn’t alone. But in adulthood, I don’t crave that feeling at all.
Every day, I feel both deeply alone and not alone at all, and the music I’m listening to plays no role in either state. I just want to listen to the sound of songs sounding good. It’s a quiet, simple pleasure.
On an afternoon in early July, I crossed an imaginary barrier into knowing each Lindsey song on Tusk as an individual entity. Prior to that afternoon, they were all sort of mushed up together, like looking across the street without glasses on. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure which was which. But with time they all came into focus, and I became aware of my relationship to each of them, and I knew when I needed which, and what it might be good for, at what time of day it might sound best. Another six months has since passed, and now I know them even better. I know every word to every one of Lindsey’s songs. I even know all the words that aren’t the words to his songs, though could have been— one morning in August, I was taking an incredibly long subway ride to the go watch a full day of tennis at the National Bank Open (Carlos Alcaraz lost that day, and my dad texted me, Thanks for jinxing Carlos, which I thought was unfair). I was anxious on the subway, anxious about work and school and life and, ultimately, nothing, and I listened to all the Lindsey demos, outtakes, and early versions from the deluxe version of Tusk. The one that hit me hardest was his earliest version of That’s All For Everyone, which features a completely different lyric than the final cut: I’m so broken, he sings, But that’s alright. It’s an unoriginal, unimpressive lyric, something that a teenager would write, but he sings it like a wounded deer wailing, and every time I hear it, I feel something, and now when I listen to the cocky, sober album version, where it’s replaced with the damning I kill for everyone, I can hear the softer sentiment echoing behind it. In an early, punky demo of I Know I’m Not Wrong, he repeatedly wonders, Don’t know why I have to be so strong. This sentiment doesn’t make it to the final version, where it’s replaced with the deflecting Don’t blame me/ Please be strong. I am obsessed with wondering why he might have decided to make the change, if it was an act of self-preservation or if maybe he just didn’t feel like that anymore.
My favourite Lindsey song on Tusk is called Walk A Thin Line. It happened on that afternoon in early July, walking down the ugliest street in my neighbourhood, a street that is literally impossible for me to romanticize in writing. I heard the green swirls of it, and I knew something. I left writing about it until the end of this essay because it’s my favourite and for some reason that makes it the most important, but really, because it’s my favourite it’s the one I have the least to say about, or the one that I find loving the hardest to explain. It does contain the lyric “Fate takes time,” which is major. Maybe I’ll get a tattoo of it, but probably not. I take it too seriously. Unlike “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again,” I knew “Fate takes time” was unequivocally true the second I heard it. I was so proud of Lindsey for thinking up something so smart.
iii. a cone of black licorice ice cream from Fosselman's in Alhambra, which stained my teeth and tongue and lips black. As an anise experience it's less of a black-jelly-bean scenario and much more akin to Italian cookies on Christmas- a cool little confluence of garish and delicate.
viii. a Baked Alaska at Lawry's, prepared tableside by a man who spooned blue flames from some sort of magical steel pot, split between me and five of my friends on a Friday night in Beverly Hills